The Shaun Teale Interview – Part One
With the current Aston Villa team in need of a dose of grit, fight and determination, it’s a shame the players can’t be injected with some of ex-Villa ace Shaun Teale’s DNA.
Teale was very much Paul McGrath’s wing man in perhaps the best Villa team since the all-conquering class of 1982. In four years at Villa, Teale played in a team that finished runners-up in the first Premiership League in 1992/93 and won the League Cup in 1993/1994. McGrath and Teale’s pairing was the bedrock of the team; in the games Teale missed through injury and suspension, Villa lost more than they won.
Teale’s defining moment in a Villa shirt has to be his contribution in helping Villa win one of the most dramatic matches involving the club in living memory, the 1994 semi-final against Tranmere Rovers in 1994 (Teale scored in normal time and in the penalty shoot-out).
If the current Bradford City semi-final mirrors the score of the 1994 Tranmere first leg, another omen is in that first game Teale was missing from the line-up, but returned for the second leg at Villa Park. Ron Vlaar will hopefully follow suit.
Since Shaun is a great straight-shooting raconteur, in an attempt to bring as much of the interview as possible, we’ll be posting it in parts. Conducted one Sunday evening this month via Skye video, it was an enjoyable couple of hours. Naturally we start with the deja vu of Villa’s League Cup semi-final predicament to his own experience, but quickly get onto the root of Villa’s current situation. UTV
MOMS: Obviously there’s a bit of deja vu with Villa’s Bradford City tie to what you experienced with Tranmere Rovers in ’94. What your main feeling going into that game?
Shaun Teale: It was obviously a potential banana skin…
I went to the 2nd leg of the semi-final in 1994 at Villa Park, but I didn’t get to the first leg when Villa were obviously 3-0 at one stage…
I didn’t play in that, as I was suspended.
Well, that completely explains why Villa went 3-0 down!
[Laughs] I drove up there with a friend John Greenfield from the Villa shop, and Carol the missus, and we sat in the stand and at 3-0 I’m thinking, ‘Oh, no. We’re not going to Wembley’. Then obviously Dalian scored with the last kick of the game.
Were you in the changing rooms for Big Ron’s team talk before the game or in the stands?
Just in the stands. In a section of the stand where it’s all the players and wives and other guests…Mark Wright was there, who was at Liverpool at the time.
What was the mood like the next day in training, after getting beat 3-1?
Well, I was in training, they had a day off [laughing]. We were playing Bolton in the FA Cup for which I was also suspended! That’s what happens when you go to Grimsby and start fighting with Steve Livingstone and end up getting sent off, but hey-ho.
I was at that game…
Yeah, it was shortly after that episode with John Fashanu and Gary Mabbut, when there was a big hoo-har about elbows. I’d gone for a header and all I can remember was, I could see the ball in one eye and an elbow coming at me with the other eye, and he must have literally shaved my nose. I was that angry, as I landed I just grabbed him and it just kicked off from there.
He ripped my shirt, but the only thing I remember about it, was as we got back to our feet and were thinking about slugging it out, Paul McGrath appears behind him and puts both arms round him, and poor Steve Livingstone couldn’t move! If I wanted to knock him out, I would have had a clean shot. So that cost me the first leg and the defeat by Alan Stubb’s freekick at Bolton. So I’m there Thursday morning thinking, ‘S**t, I’m not going to Wembley this year.
That late goal changed the whole complexion though didn’t it?
Yeah, when Dalian scored though, everything really did change. The lads came in on Thursday morning quite buoyant and in the frame of mind we could do it, with our full side out, as it would be, in the next leg.
It’s a good job you didn’t get suspended for the real games that mattered like the second leg and Wembley!
Yeah, I suppose you could put it like that.
I still remember the Sunday morning of the game looking at my ticket and feeling pessimistic…what was the team-talk then before the game. Was Big Ron being gung-ho?
No, it was more ‘Be careful, because obviously, if they score again, we could be in real trouble.’ But at the same time, the one thing that Ron said to us was basically, ‘Listen, this is possibly your best chance ever of getting to Wembley Stadium and to get to the cup final and have a chance of a winner’s medal. And he was right in theory. Not everyone plays at the top for 16 years; some people only play at the top for a few years. The sum total of my time at the top was four years, the rest was played lower down. It was my one and only real opportunity to get to a Wembley final. Thankfully, we did.
A lot of players especially nowadays don’t experience a Wembley final, as it’s three or four teams that tend to dominate the cups.
Exactly, even more so now. If I could stand in that dressing room on Tuesday night, that’s the one thing I would make so clear to the young lads, what a chance you have got. I think from the last time we went to Wembley, which was three years ago, I don’t think there’s a single player left is there?
Yeah, Gabby and probably Brad Guzan, but Guzan wouldn’t have played.
Guzan was on the bench. He played in all the games up to the final and then he was left out.
That’s right. Yeah, lovely. That was a nice touch wasn’t it? I would have been really happy, if that had happened to me!
Well, Shay Given is in a similar situation, so Brad might get his payback. It’ll be interesting who gets the nod for the 2nd leg, as well as the final….
I think he’ll bring Brad back myself. Forget the Christmas period with the 8-0 and the 4-0 and 3-0; not all of that was down to him. He has had a terrific season. I didn’t rate him to be fair, until he got into the side, I thought he was a bit of a flapper and lacking in confidence, but he’s surprised me. I think he’s done really well.
Well, to be fair, in the last semi-final against Blackburn (6-4), he was flapping all over the place.
I was at that game. Yes, he was flapping. I think that’s where it stuck in my mind, ‘Oh no, this ain’t going to work!’ But hey-ho, people grow up don’t they? People get better with age and experience, and he’s had that run in the side and it’s obviously brought his confidence out.
Villa brought you from Bournemouth, it’s not that long ago, but in those days you’d respect astute managers for their purchases lower down the leagues. Nowadays, like most football supporters, Villa fans want the club to buy top dollar players, but Lambert is almost very old school in his approach to how he’s building a team…
I think in a way, Paul wanted to go that way anyway, but I think the financial restrictions that Randy Lerner has put on him have probably forced him into that. That’s why when you look online and on twitter and people are saying ‘Sack Lambert’ and you think, ‘What planet are these people coming from?’ At the end of the day, you’ve basically got a bunch of kids and they are going to take some hidings this year, they’ll get battered a few times, but I think they’re good enough and confident as a group to stay up and from there they’ll only get better.
To allow Villa to mix it up in the top five or six, I don’t think they can match the Manchester teams or some of the London teams head-on, in terms of buying players, but if Lambert knits a team together of these young players, and after two or three seasons you’ve got a nucleus there where a few final quality pieces of the jigsaw can be added to, then suddenly you’ve got a real team that can beat these teams of individuals.
Exactly and to be fair, we haven’t had that recently. Even in my day, that team was brought at the start of that season. So we’ve not had that, where a manager’s gone out and said, ‘You know what? We’re going to go young, we’re going to build a team and look long-term, look three years down the line, where we will be a force to be reckoned with’. Maybe not for winning the title or maybe not the top-four even, but we will be a team that can stand on its own and we can beat the best on our day.
Do you think one of the problems these days is the media and fans are all pumped up for instant success? A lot of managers as we’ve already seen this season, just don’t get a real chance?
I think at the end of the day, supporters are passionate and they want our team to buy in these world-class stars and be a force to be reckoned with, but in reality it’s not going to happen. Randy Lerner has spent in the region of £200 million in Aston Villa football club, and he’s had no return whatsoever. Nothing. Obviously, it’s well-documented all the problems he’s had at home. He got divorced, which if it’s like it is here, it’s cost him an absolute arm and a leg! Yes, he’s sold the Cleveland Browns, but how much of that was paper money? We don’t know, do we? So, I think, it’s alright for fans to get carried away and think we’re going to buy this, that and the other from Barcelona or wherever. But we’re going to be a team that builds over the next three or four years. I can certainly see the likes of Bent, Given and Dunne going, because they’ll be the three top earners now.
I think Dunne’s contract is up at the end of the season anyway…
Well, there’s big rumours he’s already more or less pre-signed to go to America anyway. Lets face it, he’s past his best and he’s been injured all season. He’s a right off. If you can get rid of him in January, let him go basically and get him off the wage bill. Although he played quite well against Ipswich, I think Shay is past his best now. While Bent, I think he’s on like £65,000 a week. These young lads like Ashley Westwood, they’re only on £15,000 a week. They’re on absolute peanuts compared to these three. That’s a good thing, because I think these lads want to play for the shirt and not play for the money.
Obviously, there’s the Darren Bent situation. Personally, I wouldn’t keep him, because I don’t think he’s a team player full stop.
Villa will never get anything near £18 to 24 million back for him though…
No. There was a rumour for a swap with the lad from Fulham – Hangeland and £8 million. For us, with the situation we’re in, I would think that would be a massive deal. Whether it happens or not is another kettle of fish.
There’s always one question rattles me when it comes to some of the Villa players wages. Why was O’Neil allowed to spend vast amounts on wages for some average players? Obviously he paid over the odds just to get some of them in quick, but there didn’t see to be a plan b, because for it to work Villa had to qualify for the Champion’s League for this gamble to pay off. The word from the club is it was a fine margin, but we were 10 points behind the 4th spot in the season we gave it our best shot.
That’s like us saying it in 1993 when we were top at one stage and chased United all the way, but ended up 10 points adrift
Well, you did lose the last three games, which didn’t help!
We were nowhere near, because we weren’t good enough. Physically as a squad we weren’t strong enough. I think fans are slowly turning to the truth of what O’Neil did. I think O’Neil is, in a sense, a waster. A massive waster. You look at it, we finished sixth three years on the run, and everybody is going ‘Oh, Martin’s great’. He actually won nothing. Not a thing. He wasted £169 million on average players; the Steve Sidwell’s and players like that. What made it even worse is he didn’t even play the lad.
Exactly. I think that’s a lot of Villa fan’s main gripe. He bought players, yet hardly played some of them.
The lad came on probably £45,000 a week and sat on the bench, and literally for three years raped the club of money. You could probably name six or seven of players like that.
It was the same for Reo Coker and Harewood, who hardly got a decent look-in after they were signed…
At least Reo Coker had something about him. I’d like to know what the deal was with Harewood? He must have played about five games! I must have played more games in one season than he did in his Villa career!
Even I played a closer amount of games for Villa to Harewood, than you did!
Unbelievable. Yet he was fit most of the time and he was never even in the squad. You’re not telling me at that time he didn’t come to Villa on anything less than £20,000 a week. He would have been on more than that. The guy from Newcastle, Habib Beye, oh, my word! He can’t kick a ball straight. Honesty, he can’t kick a ball straight. Carlos Cuellar was another one. He’s been found out now. The fans raved about him, but he can’t pass water.
I think the fans liked him because he was a nice guy.
You know why the fans liked him as well? Because he came onto twitter and facebook and talked to the fans. And that does make a big difference. From that point of view, hats off to him, because there’s very few of them that will do it nowadays. But as an actual footballer…I’ve sat in that stand, me and Colin Gibson and a few others, and we’ve opened-mouthed just looked at each other, as if to say, ‘What’s he doing?’ He goes to pass the ball five yards and passes it out of play.
One of the problems Cuellar suffered from was O’Neil’s early phobia to proper rightbacks, where he didn’t have one and would play Cuellar or Melberg. Which was kind of similar to Earl Barrett in your day, he was a top player, but rightback wasn’t his natural position.
That was the finger that was always pointed at Earl, that he wasn’t the best passer of the ball. The one thing about Earl though, was he was super, super fit. Whenever we played Arsenal, the team always changed when we played Arsenal, because Earl would be brought in to whether Ian Wright was playing. Earl would be told, man-mark him, and he would literally follow him wherever he played. If Ian Wright was to play left-back, Earl would have gone and played right-wing. It was arms length the whole game, and Earl was that good at it, Ian Wright barely got a kick the whole game. I remember the league cup game at Arsenal. I played left-back, Earl marked Ian Wright, and I don’t think they had three shots all game.
I remember Earl playing for Oldham vs Manchester United, at centre back in the FA Cup semi and he was terrific that game, marking Mark Hughes out the game.
Yep. I think the problem with Earl when he came to us was Ron didn’t want to play him with one dropping and one attacking the ball the time, as he knew Paul’s [McGrath] knees were dodgy, and he decided to with two centre halves that could both go and win the ball and that left Earl playing right-back, but to be fair, Earl got in the England side playing right-back. But then again, I played with Gary Stevens who made 54 appearances for England, and again, couldn’t pass water.
Who made his name at Everton…
Yep, he’s got winners medals and all that, but honestly the worst passer of the ball you’ve seen in your life. He was exactly the same as Earl, at Tranmere although he was one of the older players then, in training he’d literally run everyone into the ground. It was frightening.
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